Coming into the 24th of March, in Houston, Texas. HBO’s World Championship Boxing presented fans with a bout commonly seen before in Championship Boxing: An aged, ring worn, beloved ring legend, in Tijuana Mexico’s own Erik “El Terrible” Morales, (52-8, 36 KOs.) taking on a foe holding a twelve year age advantage in youth. The pugilist Morales had facing him, was Philadelphia’s own, Danny Garcia. (23-0, 14 KOs.). In Similar fashion to Morales’ terrific twelve round battle last April against Argentine Kayo artist, Marcos Maidana. Many in boxing were questioning whether Morales’ age, and ring wars, would eventually catch up to him and render him unable to defeat his younger adversary.
Garcia was coming off his most notable win of his professional career in defeating former World Champion, Kendall Holt, this past October in Los Angeles on the Bernard Hopkins-Chad Dawson Light Heavyweight Championship undercard. The boxing public questioned whether Garcia was seasoned enough or had been up against solid competition enough to fight a cagey, well skilled, albeit aged warrior in Morales. The stage was set to see if Morales’s comeback, beginning in early of 2010, could continue to have a successful run. Or, if Morales’s late career rally would be halted once and for all by Garcia.
On a side note: Morales this past September in Las Vegas had become the first Mexico born fighter to have captured World Championships in four different weight divisions. However, coming into the bout, Morales was two pounds north of the 14o pound weight limit for the Junior Welterweight division. Thus, Morales had no shot coming into the bout, even if he were to have won, of holding onto his WBC Junior Welterweight Championship. Only a win by Garcia, who did make the weight limit, would crown a Champion.
Perhaps a combination of Morales having been-there, done-that, in this situation coupled with Garcia’s inexperience, led to Morales appearing to be more ready for the Championship bout than Garcia was in contrast. Morales opened up the first and second stanza’s with a beautiful, stiff left jab, timing it very well. With Morales easily out jabbing the young lion, it gave Morales the advantage he needed to take an early two to zip lead.
In the third, the before hesitant Garcia began to open up, nailing Morales with a crunching straight right hand with Morales against the ropes. Morales was visibly shaken up, and Garcia took advantage by landing some very good left and right hooks to the body of Morales, as well as some more right hands up top. Though it seemed to be just the first round Garcia had won, his punches left a big impression on Morales, who had to retreat a bit in the stanza momentarily. Morales regained competitiveness, though, immediately closing the distance and landing shots through the center, taking advantage of Garcia’s not slow, but winging blows coming at Morales from the sides of his gloves. Morales regained his jab advantage and dictated the pace to win the fourth.
By the fifth round, and virtually the whole fight thus far really, it’s obvious that conventional logic is winning out here. Garcia is the more athletically gifted, faster, harder hitting, stronger fighter. But Morales’s old guile, experience, and well known guts have the physically superior Garcia at times unable, and sometimes hesitant to impose his advantages on Morales. The fifth was a close one, with Garcia having the harder shots, but oddly not throwing as much as the more active Morales. The body punching of Garcia has been well done however, as since the bout has began he’s been “Putting money in the bank.”
In the sixth, Garcia like in the third stanza, imposes his youth, speed, and strength on Morales. Tagging Morales with thunderous lefts and right to the body and finishing up top with double left hooks to the head and body, and straight right hands landing flush on Morales. A big round for Garcia who left Morales in retreat for a good portion of the round, depute a few rallies done by Morales himself. Garcia hurt Morales in the third and sixth round.
In the seventh, Morales, as his reputation has always been, came back firing off crisp combinations and landing well on Garcia, though not near the same power as Garcia’s shots. Morales outworked Garcia in the seventh, though, and won the round. In the eighth as well, Garcia appears to be letting some of his youth go to waste, as the seemingly more fatigued Morales continues to not land the harder shots, but at times more of them, as a result of the thirty five year old letting his hands go more.
Garcia at this point, regardless of how the judges are scoring it, through conventional wisdom, needs to put an emphatic imprint on this bout coming into the Championship rounds. And that he did. Beginning with a very good ninth for Garcia, as lands some very good left hooks in the round to wobble the tiring Morales. Morales would go on to have a very good tenth, a round that included a beautiful looping right hand by Morales set up by a great feint.
The eleventh stanza produced the moment Garcia needed in order to win this fight. After an attempted furious rally by Morales, Garcia landed a flush left hook to the jaw of Morales, as Morales was attempting to come in with shots of his own. Morales fell forward, and was able to beat the count at 8. Garcia further punished Morales with crisp punches, including a clean sweeping left right combination. Garcia’s nose was now bleeding, but he had produced the round he needed, and Morales was able to hold onto through the eleventh.
In the twelfth, and final round, A gassed Morales left the crowd in Houston desperately wanting one more rally from the future hall of fame Morales. But alas, despite a hesitant first half of the round for Garcia, he opened up and pounded Morales with a few good combinations to win the round, and thus sealing the deal. Thus crowning Danny Garcia with the WBC Light Welterweight Championship of the World. The first World Title of his career. The judges final tallies were scored 117-110, 118-109, and 116-112. All for Garcia.
It was stated earlier in this piece that coming into this one, it had similarities to Morales’s fight with Marcos Maidana last year. Well, in some ways the fight itself had similarities to it as well, though Garcia made a more convincing win. The score of 116-112 seems more on target than the other scores of 117-110 and 118-109. Those scores suggest Garcia simply won via blowout, and that simply was not the case. What Garcia did show was poise in the face of a guy he probably watched growing up on pay per view. Even though Morales probably showed Garcia tricks out of his bag that he had never witnessed before as a pro, he reacted like a professional.
Morales, as one would expect, put on a gutty performance, and came to win. But Morales’s career has been filled with so many life and death bouts, with incredible action and punishment, that this one would not even make his top 10 most exciting bouts of his career. And that is the problem. Nobody wants to see Erik Morales get hurt, he’s one of the most heroic fighters to hardcore boxing enthusiasts over the past two decades. But, unfortunately, like so many before him, some terrific fighters such as Morales fight on too long. To the point where not only are they adding losses, that don’t reflect their peak talents in the sport, but more importantly, their health.
For Danny Garcia, he looks to have some fine tuning to do with his good talent. Fighting a fighter like Morales is sure to have given him lessons going forward. Garcia displayed good punching power, technical skills, and hand speed. He just needs to add more variety on both Offense and Defense going forward, but he does seem to have the capability to do so. With Garcia now owning a World Championship at 140 pounds, Garcia, (and all other comers at 140) should look to fight the winner of the up and coming Amir Khan-Lamont Peterson rematch.